Sunday, May 31, 2009

Jeffrey Rosen lashes out

Jeffrey Rosen rightly feels a great deal of embarrassment for the gossipy hit piece he published earlier this month trashing Judge Sotomayor with anonymous sources. Rosen's piece was journalism at it's worse and no one did a better job than Ta-Nehisi Coats in calling Rosen out at the time, "You don't get to be the "respectable intellectual center" and then practice your craft in the gossip-laden, ignorant muck. Not for long anyway."

In response to all the well earned criticism, Rosen now blames blogs for his shattered credibility.

Glenn Greenwald does a suburb job calling Rosen out,
First, even when the most establishment "journalists" such as Rosen get caught engaging in patently irresponsible behavior, they still find a way to blame blogs rather than themselves (I thought I was just blogging, and reckless gossip is what bloggers do). It wasn't blogs that "reported" Saddam Hussein's acquisition of scary aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons or that Iraq was behind the anthrax attacks; it wasn't blogs that glorified Jessica Lynch's nonexistent heroic firefight with Iraqi goons; it wasn't blogs that turned John Edwards into The Breck Girl and John Kerry into a "French-looking" weakling; and it wasn't blogs that presented retired military generals who were participating in a Pentagon propaganda program and saddled with countless undisclosed conflicts as "independent analysts."
Greenwald also points out that Rosen's claim that he was blogging is a lie (my word). Rosen's hit piece was an online article and did not appear in any of TNR's blogs.

Here is an NPR story appearing on air today on the whole Rosen flap.

Judge Sotomayor decisions on race

It seems that the Obama administration has set a trap for the GOP in the nomination of Judge Sotomayor in which they have gleefully jumped into with a full, and shocking even to me, racist meltdown.

Further evidence of this trap comes from Judge Sotomayor's actual record. Tom Goldstein at SCOTUS BLOG is in the middle of an analysis of the 100 opinions in which Judge Sotomayor has participated in 11 years on the Second Circuit Court of Appeal. Tom is at a half-way point and this is the crux of his midway report,
There are roughly 100. They cover the gamut from employment discrimination to racial bias in jury selection. I decided that I would stop and write an interim report once I got through her 50 most recent race-related cases other than Ricci because the numbers are sufficiently striking and decisive. Here is what I found.

In those 50 cases, the panel accepted the claim of race discrimination only three times. In all three cases, the panel was unanimous; in all three, it included a Republican appointee. In roughly 45, the claim was rejected. (Two were procedural dispositions.)

On the other hand, she twice was on panels reversing district court decisions agreeing with race-related claims - i.e., reversing a finding of impermissible race-based decisions. Both were criminal cases involving jury selection.

In the 50 cases, the panel was unanimous in every one. There was a Republican appointee in 38, and these panels were all obviously unanimous as well. Thus, in the roughly 45 panel opinions rejecting claims of discrimination, Judge Sotomayor never dissented.

It seems to me that these numbers decisively disprove the claim that she decides cases with any sort of racial bias.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The GOP race problem,....again

Matt gets this right,
I think if you look at election results over time, it’s clear that a large number of non-white or non-Anglo Americans seem to have the sense that the Republican Party and the conservative movement don’t have their best interests at heart. And when people see conservatives not just saying “well, I’m a conservative and Sotomayor isn’t, so I’m not happy about the choice” but engaging in bizarre tirades against the “unnatural” pronunciation of her name and the evils of Puerto Rican cuisine while suggesting that the kind of resume that was suitable for Samuel Alito doesn’t cut the mustard for Sonia Sotomayor, well then I think that tends to reinforce the sense that conservatives are very interested in white people’s problems and not so interested in anyone else.
The racial anger in the GOP response to Judge Sotomayor is just bracing.

Oh the hypocracy!

Glenn Greenwald has run down key portions from Justice Alito's confirmation hearings wherein he goes on at length about his immigrant ancestry and humble beginnings influence his judicial decision making.

We should all question the motives, as Glenn notes, of anyone who finds fault Judge Sotomayor's statements about how her personal experiences and background color her decision who did not object to Judge Alito on the very same grounds. Those people are at best hypocrites and at worst bigots.

The full transcript is here,
U.S. SENATOR TOM COBURN (R-OK): Can you comment just about Sam Alito, and what he cares about, and let us see a little bit of your heart and what's important to you in life?

ALITO: Senator, I tried to in my opening statement, I tried to provide a little picture of who I am as a human being and how my background and my experiences have shaped me and brought me to this point.

ALITO: I don't come from an affluent background or a privileged background. My parents were both quite poor when they were growing up.

....Because when a case comes before me involving, let's say, someone who is an immigrant -- and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases -- I can't help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn't that long ago when they were in that position.

And so it's my job to apply the law. It's not my job to change the law or to bend the law to achieve any result.

But when I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, "You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country."

When I have cases involving children, I can't help but think of my own children and think about my children being treated in the way that children may be treated in the case that's before me.

And that goes down the line. When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account. When I have a case involving someone who's been subjected to discrimination because of disability, I have to think of people who I've known and admire very greatly who've had disabilities, and I've watched them struggle to overcome the barriers that society puts up often just because it doesn't think of what it's doing -- the barriers that it puts up to them.

So those are some of the experiences that have shaped me as a person.

Coburn: Thank you.
Here's the video.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rove's stupid friends

While discussing Judge Sotomayor on the Charlie Rose show last night, Karl Rove said, without a hint of irony, "I know lots of stupid people who went to ivy league schools."

He'll get no argument from me on this one.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court

Obama has nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court of the United States.

You might recall that Judge Sotomayor was the subject of a bizarre whispering campaign a few weeks ago in hopes of derailing her nomination.

Her objective qualifications are impeccable, but we can all expect the GOP to 'go to the mattresses' to derail the nomination of the first nominee to the court of Latin decent. I don't think that works well for them in electoral politics but political suicide is their forte.

And let's get this straight from the start. Judge Sotomayor would NOT be the first Hispanic Justice -- that distinction goes to Justice Benjamin Cardozo.

So is Harry Reid up for this fight? I have serious doubts.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The case against drone airstrikes

The use of drone in Pakistan has been a huge source of tension between the people of Pakistan and the US.

In today's NYTs David Kilcullen and Andrew McDonald make for discontinuing the use of drone air strikes.

David Kilcullen is the author of “The Accidental Guerrilla,” and was a counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus from 2006 to 2008. Andrew Exum is a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and was an Army officer in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004.

Both feel that the harm done to civilians and our relationship with them far outweighs any benefits from the attacks. Here's the crux of their argument,
Governments typically make several mistakes when attempting to separate violent extremists from populations in which they hide. First, they often overestimate the degree to which a population harboring an armed actor can influence that actor’s behavior. People don’t tolerate extremists in their midst because they like them, but rather because the extremists intimidate them. Breaking the power of extremists means removing their power to intimidate — something that strikes cannot do.

Imagine, for example, that burglars move into a neighborhood. If the police were to start blowing up people’s houses from the air, would this convince homeowners to rise up against the burglars? Wouldn’t it be more likely to turn the whole population against the police? And if their neighbors wanted to turn the burglars in, how would they do that, exactly? Yet this is the same basic logic underlying the drone war.
It's a thoughtful OP/ED from two very serious people. It's worth a read.

Obama at Notre Dame

The President of the United States addresses the class of 2009 at University Notre Dame.

Text of the speech is here.

The speech was interrupted on one occasion by protesters who were promptly shouted down by the graduates and audience who rose to their feet in defense of the President with chants of "We are ND!" and "Yes we can!"

Fox has been providing breathless coverage of the protesters which is at odds with the above video to an amusing extent.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sen Schumer a/k/a "that Jew"

Arkansas State Senator Kim Hendren, the Republican party's Senate candidate attempting to knock off Senator Lincoln in 2010 referred to Sen Chuck Schumer as "that Jew" while speaking last week at the Pulaski County GOP meeting.

Via The Tolbert Report,
Hendren told me, “At the meeting I was attempting to explain that unlike Sen. Schumer, I believe in traditional values, like we used to see on ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’ I made the mistake of referring to Sen. Schumer as ‘that Jew’ and I should not have put it that way as this took away from what I was trying to say.”
I'm confident I've seen every episode of 'The Andy Griffith Show' at least 10 times during the course of my life, and not once did I hear Andy, Aunt Bea or even Otis refer to anyone as "that Jew". But of course, such slurs are exactly what the GOP means when referring to "traditional values". Just ask Sen. Hendren.

Monday, May 11, 2009

American's love their President

There is little doubt that this love affair will someday cool, but for now the American people love Barack Obama.

Here is Pollster's average of all national job approval polls.

The President's favorable rating is even higher, with a decisive uptick at about April 1, before the 100 days love fest even began.

The WSJ had a nice comparison graph from Truman through GWB that provides some interesting context.

(Click to enlarge)

One of the more interesting aspects of this comparison chart is that it lays bare the Republican myth built around Ronald Reagan.

Bush Senior's initial spike represents a nation relieved by the retirement of Ronald Reagan and the second spike is the Gulf War. Things soured quickly after that war for the elder Bush. Bill Clinton was never more popular than during impeachment. Junior's first spike is September 11, 2001 followed by the invasion of Iraq, the capture of Saddam, etc. What's interesting about Junior's ratings is the number of times his approval was in free fall between major events.

Here is a more detailed look at GWB's approval ratings which shows that before September 11, he struggled to keep his approval rating in positive territory.

(Click to enlarge)

To what extend does Barack Obama's approval/favorable ratings benefit from the fact that he has literally no opposition party to challenge him?

A campaign suicide pact inside the Edwards campaign?

Marc Ambinder points to a Stephanopoulos article in National Journal (subscription only)claiming that top aides in the Edwards campaign, having come to the realization that Edwards was lying about his affair, formed a pact wherein they would derail the campaign if it looked like Edwards was going to win the nomination.

Then Edwards Senior Advisor Joe Trippi has not responded to Ward Report requests for comment.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Healthcare breakthrough

The AP is reporting that the Obama administration has reached a breakthrough with major health industry stakeholders for $2 trillion in savings.
Top representatives of the health care industry plan to offer $2 trillion in cost reductions over 10 years in a bid to help pass President Barack Obama's health overhaul, a source familiar with the negotiations said Sunday.

Industry officials representing health insurers, hospitals, doctors, drug makers and a major labor union plan to be at White House on Monday to present the offer.

Costs have emerged as the biggest obstacle to Obama's ambitious plan to provide health insurance for everybody. The upfront tab for the federal government from Obama's proposed expansion of health coverage will be due right away while the savings he expects from wringing waste and inefficiency from the health care system will take longer to show up.

A source outside the administration told The Associated Press that the savings would come from slowing projected cost increases by a small percentage each year for 10 years. The result over time would be an estimated $2 trillion in savings on health care costs. The source requested anonymity in order to speak before the public announcement.
I've been very skeptical about the chances for major health care reform this year, but this changes everything. This is a real triumph for the Administration and a huge concession from an industry that has heretofore resisted any reforms.

The GOP reaction should be priceless.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Cold Water on a Sestak Senate Campaign

A TPM reader gives us a 'snap out of it!' smack across the face on the idea Sestak knocking off Arlen in a Democratic primary fight.

If your interested in this race, you should read the whole thing. Here is a taste,
Finally, how is going Sestak going to beat Specter in the Democratic primary? Let me give you four names: Obama, Biden, Rendell, Casey. They've all put themselves on the line for Specter. There's no way they're going to let Specter lose. They'll shut off the money for Sestak, and Joe can't count on the Clinton connection for fundraising help this time. Plus Specter is very well known statewide, and Sestak isn't.

...think about about this from the national party's point of view. They would love to get Snowe and/or Collins to switch over. A big Democratic win in 2010 makes that more likely. But not if they see Specter going down to defeat in a Democratic primary.
I think this guy has really summed up the situation well. However, I will say just one thing in opposition. The reader asked where Sestak would get the money to oppose Specter and his institutional support, and the only real answer would be labor. They are unhappy with Specter and might -- could -- decide to use this race to remind the Democratic party that they they have their own ideas and don't take orders from the WH. They are angry at their old friend Arlen and may be feeling that the WH and Dem leaderwship are not dancing to their tune as much as they would like (especially on card check). Admittedly, just a speculative theory...I'm just sayin'...

I really had no idea the extent to which Specter is politically tone deaf. Arlen has had a miserable 10 days or so, entirely of his own making.

Specter announces his party change advising that he will maintain his seniority. The Democratic leadership and WH announce that they will go all-in for him, whereupon he goes out of his way to repeatedly embarrassing Reid and the WH at every opportunity. Highlights of Arlen's Fuck You Democrats tour included his insistence on MTP that he would not be a loyal Democrat despite his promise to the President (which he now denies) that he would be loyal; insistence on voting against Obama's nominees; and then finally Arlen's prayer that Norm Coleman be immediately seated in the Senate for the party Arlen just abandoned. And Arlen has done all of this after Reid and the WH had publically pledged their loyalty to him.

Arlen's reward was a humiliating and much deserved bitch slap by Reid who quickly and unflinchingly stripped him of his seniority by unanimous vote of the caucus.

Who's your daddy now Arlen?

Today, Reid tossed Arlen a bone to remind him who's his daddy.

It would be hard to exaggerate the humiliation Specter suffered by having been stripped of his seniority so soon after leaving the GOP.

Ridge out before he was in

Governor Tom Ridge will not be running the the senate.

His full statement:

WASHINGTON, May 7—Tom Ridge, the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and former Governor of Pennsylvania, issued the following statement today on his decision not to seek the Republican nomination for Senate in his home state of Pennsylvania.

“After careful consideration and many conversations with friends and family and the leadership of my party, I have decided not to seek the Republican nomination for Senate.

“I am enormously grateful for the confidence my party expressed in me, the encouragement and kindness of my fellow citizens in Pennsylvania and the valuable counsel I received from so many of my party colleagues. The 2010 race has significant implications for my party, and that required thoughtful reflection. All of the above made my decision a difficult and deeply personal conclusion to reach. However, this process also impressed upon me how fortunate I am to have so many friends who volunteered to support my journey if I chose to take it and continue to offer their support after I conveyed to them this morning how I believe I can best serve my commonwealth, my party and my country.

“Public service has long played a significant role in my life. That service does not end here. There are causes to which I remain intensely committed, including my work on behalf of the disability community, our nation’s veterans, our national security and the GOP — the party I enthusiastically joined more than four decades ago.

“To those who believe that the Republican Party is facing challenges, they are right. To those who believe the Democratic Party is without its own difficulties, they are wrong. No one party has a monopoly on all of the answers. The more important view, in my mind, is that we remember, whether Republican or Democrat, we are foremost Americans. And as Americans, we have always overcome challenges when we put partisanship aside and solutions first.

“And so my desire and intention is to help my party craft solutions that both sides of the aisle can embrace. My hope is to raise the level of civility in public debate and raise the bar on outcomes that serve our citizens fully, fairly and equally. My belief is that those in my home state can best be served by the principles of limited government, less taxes, competent governance and shared responsibility. So I stand ready and excited to help my party and my country prevail as we continue to work to preserve and protect our strong, storied and much beloved nation.”

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Numbers in space without context can be very misleading.

Bank of America is an institution with total assets of 2.72 TRILLION dollars. The $34B in additional capital reportedly required by the Fed is a mere 1.3% of total assets. In other words, it's chump change.

Wells Fargo is an institution with total assets of 1.42 TRILLION dollars. $15B of additional capital for Wells Fargo is a mere 1% of its total assets. Again, chump change.

News reports should provide context by doing the math, but alas, that is apparently asking too much of financial reporters.

Those in the market, however, understand context and do the math which is why Bank of America (BAC) was up 17% today and Well Fargo (WFC) was up 16%.

The Catty Case Against Sotomayor

Jeffrey Rosen published a surprisingly catty and thinly sourced hit piece yesterday on Judge Sotomayor that may have destroyed her chance to even be considered for the Supreme Court. Rosen writes that "despite the praise from some of her former clerks, and warm words from some of her Second Circuit colleagues," some anonymous clerks who never worked for her thought she was an intellectual lightweight who was mean in critiques of their work. After given voice to the anonymous gossip, Rosen confesses,
I haven't read enough of Sotomayor's opinions to have a confident sense of them, nor have I talked to enough of Sotomayor's detractors and supporters, to get a fully balanced picture of her strengths. It's possible that the former clerks and former prosecutors I talked to have an incomplete picture of her abilities.
Rosen goes on to then insist the motives of those who would not speak on the record were as pure as 5 year old flower girl at your niece's wedding. How Rosen knows the unspoken motives of the backbiters is left to the readers imagination.

In response, Judge Sotomayor's former clerk and now law school professor Robert Kar writes what can only be described as a gushing endorsement of Judge Sotomayor that at times reads like a John Hinderaker ode to President Bush.

Finally, Ta-Nehisi Coates said of Rosen's above quoted admission of ignorance of Judge Sotomayor,
...drips with unintentional irony--Rosen is attacking Sotomayor's ability to do the necessary intellectual heavy-lifting, while explicitly neglecting to do any of his own. In this instance, His piece reads like a burglar's brief against rampant criminality. Authored mid-robbery, no less. I mean him no disrespect. I'm sure he is a hard-working, talented writer. Journalism is difficult, and in this age, the urge to immediately have an opinion on everything is quite strong. But this is exactly why that urge has to be resisted. Opinions matter--even ill-informed ones. You don't get to be the 'respectable intellectual center' and then practice your craft in the gossip-laden, ignorant muck. Not for long anyway. You know what this is--Great power. Great responsibility.

Chrysler's packaged bankruptcy approved

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Gonzalez approved the Chrysler packaged bankruptcy plan late last night over-ruling the objection of the hedge funds that refused to play ball. This clears the way for the Fiat deal negotiated by the White House, and a big victory for the President.

If all goes well, Chrysler will emerge from bankruptcy in 60 days.

My guess is that WH negotiations with GM's creditors just got a lot easier.

DoD Inspector Gen withdraws own report

In January 2009, the DoD Inspector General issued a report whitewashing the DoD's roll in a Bush administration propaganda campaign involving retired officers working as military analysts. The report also whitewashed over military contractors use of former insiders to obtain no bid contracts.

The January report was full of demonstrable factual errors (claiming for instance that many registered representatives of defense contractors didn't work for those contractors) it caused a storm in Congress and an embarrassment to the DoD.

So, as only the Pentagon can do, it launched an independent internal review of its independent internal review.

And today, NYTs reports that the Inspector General has taken the unusual step of withdrawing its own report conceding that the report was a disaster.
Donald M. Horstman, the Pentagon’s deputy inspector general for policy and oversight, said in a memorandum released on Tuesday that the report was so riddled with flaws and inaccuracies that none of its conclusions could be relied upon. In addition to repudiating its own report, the inspector general’s office took the additional step of removing the report from its Web site.

According to Mr. Horstman’s memorandum, the inspector general’s office “became aware of inaccuracies” in the report shortly after it was published and soon began “an independent internal review.” The internal review concluded that the report “did not meet accepted quality standards” and “relied on a body of testimonial evidence that was insufficient or inconclusive.”

The review found that the former senior Pentagon officials who devised and managed the program refused to speak with the inspector general’s investigators. It also found that the report’s methodology was so flawed that it “would not reasonably yield evidence” to address the issue of whether analysts used their special access to gain competitive advantage.
Now might be a good time for the DoJ to launch it's own independent review.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Senate Democrats strip Specter's senority

While Arlen was re-affirming his support for Norm Coleman today, the Senate Democratic caucus was stripping him of his seniority. The vote was unanimous.

Whether he gets his seniority back in the next Congress will be negotiated if he returns in 2011.

Specter had said last week he would retain his seniority. Evidently, that was conditioned upon his being a loyal Democrat.

Disbarment of Yoo, Bybee and Bradbury?

NPR is reporting that the DoJ Office of Professional Responsibility has completed its investigation into the torture memos written by Bush's Office of Legal Counsel. The report will likely be released in the coming weeks.

The report allegedly concludes that the authors of the infamous torture memos, John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury, will be referred to the various state bars that have licensed them for possible disciplinary proceedings, but they will not face criminal charges.

This may not seem serious to some, but it means professional ruin for all three. John Yoo is presently a tenured professor of Law at UC Berkeley. Jay Bybee is now a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. If a disiplenary referral is made -- regardless of the outcome -- both men will almost certain step down from their current lifetime positions and Judge Bybee might well be impeached. Shockingly, Bradbury remained at OLC until January 20, 2009, even as this investigation was underway.

As the NPR report explains, for a successful criminal prosecution to come out of the memos, there were have to be significant evidence that all three knew that the advice they were giving was false and inaccurate. After a three year investigation, we can safely assume no such evidence exists.

If NPR is correct, the report itself will be pretty sensational with, "a detailed play-by-play of how the memos were produced. It will contain e-mails sent from one Justice Department employee to another and from Justice Department employees to other government officials."

Tom Ridge (R-Maryland) (updated)

As the latest Quinnipiac Poll PA voters show Specter thumbing Toomey by 20 points, his lead over would-be GOP dream candidate Tom Ridge is only 3 points which is an effective tie -- not where a 5 term incumbent wants to be.

Josh Marshall has a good analysis of Specter's situation after his unfortunate Sunday appearance on MTP.

PA Congressman Joe Sestak is very serious about challenging "Benedict Arnold" Specter for the Democratic nomination -- thanks in large part to Specter's unbelievably big mouth.

Despite everything Arlen has said recently, I think the proof will be in the votes.

And if Specter votes the way he was talking this weekend, I think Arlen will find himself out of a job in two years and very unhappy about how his once illustrious political career ended. With Arlene's old GOP friends financing Toomey or Ridge or the fight between them, and his old labor allies financing Sestak along with the netroots ("I'm not a loyal Democrat" is like blood in the water to them), who exactly does Arlene imagine will be paying for his campaign?

And finally, as dreamy as Tom Ridge might be as a candidate in Pennsylvania, he lives in Maryland.

UPDATE: A new Susquehanna Hat Company poll has Ridge beating Specter 39-38 percent, reinforcing my earlier point.

Dirty girl

Homophobic Christian crusader and conservative spokeswoman Carrie Prejean (aka Miss California) turns out to have a soiled past. Naughty pictures of her are turning up on the web, much to the dismay of her new found (now former?) Christian admirers.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Specter begs for Democratic primary fight

TPM reports that Sen Specter went on MTP begging for a primary challenge,
MR. GREGORY: It was reported this week that when you met with the president you said, "I will be a loyal Democrat. I support your agenda." Let me test that on probably one of the most important areas of his agenda, and that's health care. Would you support health care reform that puts up a government-run public plan to complete with a private plan issued by a private insurance company?

SEN. SPECTER: No. And you misquote me, David. I did not say I would be a loyal Democrat. I did not say that. And last week, after I said I was changing parties, I voted against the budget because the budget has a way to pass health care with a 51 votes, which undermines a basic Senate institution to require 60 votes to impose cloture on, on key issues. But I...

MR. GREGORY: All right, just to be clear, Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal Jonathan Weisman and Greg Hitt reported that when you met with the president you said, "I'm a loyal Democrat," and, according to people familiar with the White House, "I support your agenda." So that's wrong? You didn't say those things?

SEN. SPECTER: I did not say I'm a loyal Democrat.
How unfortunate.

Friday, May 01, 2009

A fight Republicans can't win

Like everyone I was surprised by Justice David Souter's retirement, but probably should not have been. I have no connections at all to the workings of the Court and even I knew Justice Souter did not enjoy the job.

No one knows who is on Obama's short list and anyone who says they do, is lying. But whoever Obama nominates, one thing is clear: there is no upside to the Republican party in Obama's replacement of Justice Souter.

To start with, the American public does not like Senate fights over any President's nomination to the court. Add to this the fact that the GOP has never, in it's long history, been more unpopular with the public than it is now. It could only be worse for the GOP, if this fight was taking place in the summer of 2010, and a similar fight might well be going on at that time.

This much seems certain based upon observations of the current administration thus far, and years of observations of GOP behavior. 1) Obama will choose someone who is objectively eminently qualified for the job, and 2) the GOP will brand this poor soul "an extremist" and threaten filibusters in their desperate attempt to break through the 20% floor in their public approval rating.

We should probably also assume some obscure tax error resulting in ≤ $10k in back taxes and penalties.

From the Democratic perspective, replacing Justice Souter is pretty much a push. He had become a reliable vote in opposition the conservative ideologues on the court, and it's hard to imagine that can be improved upon in any really meaningful way. Of course, the Dems will gain as a party from the jackassery that will be unleashed by the GOP, but that is really harder to quantify.

And finally, any filibuster will fail for lack of support by Senators Snowe, Collins, Specter and maybe even Senator Franken.

Chrysler deal is really about GM

Ezra Klein has an excellent post today taking a look at the Chrysler deal that is really worth a read.

And while the whole post is interesting, I want to call your attention to his final point, which is to view the President's actions yesterday in light of the much bigger GM negotiations.
The other piece of the puzzle is that Chrysler was something of a trial run. The really consequential negotiations are still to come. They'll happen when the administration sits down with GM. One of the apparent miscalculations made by Chrysler's bondholders was that the government desperately wanted to avoid letting Chrysler go into bankruptcy. But by showing its capability to be ruthless in the Chrysler negotiations, the administration might have just improved its bargaining position in the GM negotiations, as it is now harder for various stakeholders to predict exactly how risk averse the government will, or won't, be.
As best I can tell, the hedge funds simply overplayed their hand, thinking if they just held out they could get close to full value from the Treasury rather than let the deal fall apart. After all, 'full value' to the hedge funds is a just a few billion dollars. I've used the hold out approach successfully on behalf of clients on a few occasions and it has worked. But in this case the strategy failed, if for no other reason than this is really about GM. While "full value" to Chrysler's investors may be small change, GM is another matter.